Our spicy beef taco bake packs all the great texture and flavor of taco night into an easy one-dish meal that could easily be prepped ahead of time.
We used 93 percent lean ground beef instead of 90 percent because we found that excess grease pooled on the bottom of the dish if stored overnight.
We flavored the beef with onion, garlic, chili powder and oregano, blooming the seasonings in oil to bring out their complex flavors. Both the chili powder and some Ro-tel tomatoes gave this dish multilayered heat. Layers of colby jack cheese helped to bind the beans and the meat. Taco shells broken into pieces and even more cheese made the perfect topping.
If you can't find Ro-tel tomatoes, substitute one 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained, and one 4-ounce can chopped green chilies, drained, reserving 6 tablespoons of the tomato juice and 2 tablespoons of the chili juice.
Colby jack cheese is also known as cojack; if unavailable, substitute Monterey jack cheese.
Serve with sour cream, chopped red onion, shredded lettuce and/or salsa.
Spicy Beef Taco Bake
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped fine
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons chili powder
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano or ½ teaspoon dried
1½ pounds 93 percent lean ground beef
2 (10-ounce) cans Ro-tel Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies, drained with ½ cup juice reserved
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
1 (16-ounce) can refried beans
¼ cup minced fresh cilantro
6 ounces colby jack cheese, shredded (1½ cups)
12 taco shells, broken into 1-inch pieces
2 scallions, sliced thin
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 F. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat
until shimmering. Add onion and ½ teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in chili powder, garlic and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add ground beef and cook, breaking up meat with wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 3 to 5 minutes.
Stir in half of tomatoes, reserved tomato juice, vinegar and sugar. Bring to simmer and cook until mixture is very thick, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, combine remaining tomatoes, refried beans and cilantro and spread evenly into 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle ½ cup colby jack over the top. Spread beef mixture into baking dish and sprinkle with ½ cup colby jack. Scatter taco shell pieces over top, then sprinkle with remaining ½ cup colby jack.
Bake until filling is bubbling and top begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Let casserole cool slightly, sprinkle with scallions and serve.